Dairies Utilizing Mob Grazing in the Northeast
Five dairy farms in the northeast have participated in the study designed to describe a technique called “mob grazing”. We have since learned that most dairy farmers call mob grazing, “tall” grazing. The cattle are grazing taller, slightly more mature pastures and leaving greater grass residuals, while the farmers are still striving for high quality forage. Each farm has resource challenges and opportunities that impact their ability to use this practice. Our goal was to try and collect data and later interview the producers to understand their management goals and practices. The case studies are now being developed for use in Outreach for 2013 and 2014.
The goal of this project was to create “snapshots” or case studies of dairy producers using tall grazing as a production technique. In the growing season of 2012, our goal was to recruit dairy farms for the study, collect data, interview farmers and document the activity. We also took measurements for two grazing rotations in the spring of 2013 on 4 out of the 5 farms.
In 2013, a field day was conducted on one of the farms involved in the study, with 3 additional farmers invited to participate as speakers. All 4 farmers were involved in farmer’s panel discussion and an additional pasture walk in the afternoon. We also took an informal survey of all participants and asked them to make their own definition of “mob grazing”, which we then summarized.
The data has been summarized for use in peer reviewed articles and posters and distributed to some farmer “popular press” and electronic newsletters.
The final goal for this coming winter is to create an educational case study narratives of the farms for distribution into the first half of 2014.
The overall goal of this project is to help other dairy producers understand the opportunities and challenges to adopting tall grazing as a practice. Trends may also help researchers understand what they can do to develop more controlled studies in the future.
The Tall Grazing Field Day was held in collaboration with the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) and the USDA Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Unit in June 2013 with about 50 producers in attendance.
Two scientific posters were developed and used at the 2013 Northeast Pasture Consortium (February in New Hampshire) and the American Dairy Science Society Meeting in July in Indianapolis, IN and one extension research poster was displayed at the Extension Galaxy Meeting in Pittsburgh, PA in September.
Dr. Hafla and Dr. Soder have submitted a paper for peer review to the Professional Animal Scientist, “Case study: Dairies Utilizing Ultra-high Stocking Density Grazing in the Northeastern U.S.”. They also created a USDA-ARS fact sheet by the same title. They are working on an article for Graze magazine (yet to be published).
See the USDA-ARS link to projects:
Mena Hautau wrote a summary of the field day and the fall 2012 results for the Penn State Field Crop News, which reaches over 1700 farmers and agri-businesses.
and the Start Farming Website. This website to date has had 334 hits since its post in June.
From that event, there were 2 popular press publications that carried the information or interviewed collaborators.
Hay and Forage Grower
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Tall Grazing Field Day
On June 11, a successful field day demonstrated how tall grazing could be adapted to grazing dairy farms. The sustainable event was held at Spring Creek Farm, Wernersville, PA, with fifty people in attendance. The objective of the field day was to communicate applied research results to farmers and service providers about a study conducted on 5 farms in the Northeast in regards to tall grazing. A pasture walk was held in the morning and a study circle session in the afternoon, followed by another pasture walk in the afternoon.
Evaluations (n=26) showed that 85% (N=22) learned “a moderate amount” or “a great deal”. Fourteen farmers said they would make changes on their farms, including monitoring forage height, monitor days of rotation in paddocks and move animals more frequently. Sixteen farm advisors said they increased their understanding of tall grazing and increased their ability to talk to farmers about tall grazing.
A comment from an attendee associated with agricultural industry: “Good session and was highly needed as many farmers misapplied this concept and lost a lot of dollars.”
A follow-up from an attendee, as a result of profitability information presented by Penn State Extension and an experienced grazier said: “At some point organic production may be an option if I continue to push for low input. But I need good financial info before making such a change. I have listened to many organic grazing producers speak, but they don’t talk much about the financials and instead say they’re successful based on their happiness in life. I have a lot of debt per cow and it would be nice to know profit per acre, profit per cow, and other financial ratios.”
The meeting was a collaborative event with USDA-Ag Research Service, the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) and Spring Creek Farm, Wernersville, PA.
- GalaxyPosterTall Grazing
- Definitions of “Mob Grazing” from 2013 Field Day
- 2013 Field Dayhandout
- UHSD Fact Sheet
Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research Unit
Bldg. 3702, Curtin Road
University Park, PA 16802
Office Phone: 8148653158